Thursday, March 2, 2017

CNN host Brian Stelter honors mentor, inspires students at ACP journalism conference


CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter talks social media with
journalism students Feb. 27 at the ACP conference in Los Angeles.
Photo by Christopher Trotchie/The Commuter

LOS ANGELES -- We need more reporters, and not as many pundits, people who think they know all the answers, according to Brian Stelter.


Stelter is CNN’s senior media correspondent and host of “Reliable Sources,” the weekly TV program that examines media and journalism. He got his professional start as a media reporter at the New York Times, after launching a blog called “TV Newser” when he was still in college.

On Feb. 27 Stelter was the keynote speaker at the annual West Coast conference of the Associated Collegiate Press, which attracted some 700 journalism students, advisers and media professionals from around the United States and Canada. He filled in for his mentor and former New York Times colleague David Carr, 58, who died Feb. 12.

In his talk, “What David Carr Taught Me About Journalism,” Stelter paid tribute to Carr and shared with students the skills and attributes he believes they will need to succeed in journalism in the 21st century.

In addition to the skills of the trade -- reporting, interviewing, writing, mastering social media -- Stelter said students must have a passion for journalism. His own passion for reporting and commenting on media goes as far back as his childhood, when he created a website to write about R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” books.

Today, Stelter joked, he and the popular author follow each other on Twitter!
When he arrived at the Times, however, he was not so confident he belonged among the likes of Carr, who Stelter described as the “most important and influential media reporter of our time.”

Stelter said he kept his head down and kept reporting and writing as many stories as he could, gaining confidence and the skills he needed to succeed with every published story, which quickly numbered in the hundreds in his first year at the Times.

“I absolutely did not belong there,” he recalled. “I was terrified.”

Like his mentor, Stelter believes good journalism results from thorough reporting and interviewing. Journalists have to exercise curiosity, make phone calls, and write with confidence.

Stelter recalled Carr saying that a funny thing happens when you do more reporting and more interviews -- a story gets more complicated. It’s the responsibility of the reporter to sort it all out and explain it to readers.

These days, students must be multi-taskers -- versatile and talented. He noted how he recently broke a story that involved writing an article for CNN’s website, which posted the story the same time he reported it on TV. Meanwhile, he had already teased the article on social media, and linked to the full story soon after.

Building video skills will be essential for journalists, he said. Americans watch an average of five hours of video a day. That’s not going away.

It’s also “vitally important” that students take their “personal brand” seriously. When they “google” themselves, the top 10 results better be work they’ve created.

Think about specializing in something, he urged all the young reporters in the audience. “Follow your passion. What can you do better than anybody else?”

Most people today don’t trust the mainstream media, he said. Every day journalists have the opportunity to earn the public’s trust or further erode that trust.

David Carr was terrified of making an error, Stelter said, and so should every journalist.

As for the future, Stelter said he shares Carr’s optimism -- not just for media but also for the young people heading down that career path.

He ended his talk by quoting from one of his favorite Carr columns, “The Fall and Rise of Media,” which was published in the Times in November 2009:

“Somewhere down in the Flatiron, out in Brooklyn, over in Queens or up in Harlem, cabals of bright young things are watching all the disruption with more than an academic interest. Their tiny netbooks and iPhones, which serve as portals to the cloud, contain more informational firepower than entire newsrooms possessed just two decades ago. And they are ginning content from their audiences in the form of social media or finding ways of making ambient information more useful. They are jaded in the way youth requires, but have the confidence that is a gift of their age as well.

“For them, New York is not an island sinking, but one that is rising on a fresh, ferocious wave.”

-rp-

Rob Priewe and Brian Stelter talk
journalism at the ACP conference.
Photo by Christopher Trotchie/
The Commuter
At a glance:

  • Brian Stelter is CNN’s senior media correspondent and the host of “Reliable Sources.” Before that, he was a media reporter for the New York Times.
  • “Reliable Sources” airs at 8 a.m. Sundays on the West Coast.
  • Follow Stelter on Twitter by way of @BrianStelter or @CNN Reliable.
  • Or search “Reliable Sources” on Facebook.
  • Stelter, along with David Carr, is among the journalists featured in the 2011 documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times.”
  • “I had a lot to learn from David Carr. He would say, he learned more from me,” Stelter said. “‘Page One’ really solidified our bromance.”


#  #  #

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

OSU Crowd Goes 'Wild' Over Cheryl Strayed

Photo courtesy of Karl Maasdam Photography

CORVALLIS -- Oregonians love Cheryl Strayed. Even some of the snotty, elite backpacker society who have hated on her best-selling book “Wild” since its release two years ago.


Readers’ adoration of Strayed was on full display last Thursday from the moment she sheepishly popped on stage from behind the curtain midway through the introduction at OSU’s LaSells Stewart Center.



An hour before her talk, the overflow crowd filled every spot in the 1,200-seat auditorium, with hundreds of others left to stand in the aisles or sit on the floor. Sadly, those who hadn’t hustled to find a seat had to retreat to the lobby, where hundreds more watched the hour-long talk by live stream.

Karl Maasdam Photography
Strayed’s upbeat speech ranged from grueling tales along the Pacific Crest Trail and her transformational journey from near self-destruction, to funny moments behind the scenes with Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, who’ve both been nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in the movie version of “Wild.”

Mostly, however, Strayed fondly remembered her mom, the most “essential” person in her life. It was her mom’s death that precipitated the downward spiral that eventually led Strayed to hike 1,100 miles of the epic and challenging Pacific Crest Trail, otherwise known as the PCT.
Strayed’s story was familiar to most of the Oregon State University crowd, about three-quarters female, who nearly unanimously indicated they had read “Wild,” seen the movie or done both. In her talk, Strayed recounted elements of the story, eliciting both laughter and near tears, sometimes in the same anecdote.

“It really is about my mom, and her life … and what her death meant to me.”

For example, Strayed shared her own college experience and the naïve manner in which she decided to attend the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. After looking at various brochures, she settled on St. Thomas largely because the people pictured in the pamphlet seemed the “least weird-looking.”

Upon being accepted by the only college to which she applied, she learned that parents and grandparents also could attend classes … for free. Her mom took that opportunity to get the college education she always wanted.

“It was every student’s dream,” Strayed joked. “Would any of you bring your mom to school?!”

Going to college together, however, strengthened the already-impenetrable bond Strayed had with her mom after growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father and living “off the grid” in northern Minnesota. Her mom was her best friend, her confidante, her inspiration.

But on campus, Strayed said, her mom wasn’t to acknowledge her unless Cheryl spoke first. Of course, that embarrassment quickly disappeared. Her mom was a straight-A student, hungry to learn, and redefining her own life.

At the same time, Strayed said, “My mom knew where I had to be at that point in my life. Suddenly I understood who I was, like I never had before.”

So it was that senior year spring break that their lives took a terrible turn, when her mother, 45, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Seven weeks later, she was gone.

Karl Maasdam Photography
Her mother’s death catapulted Strayed, then 22, into binges of alcohol and drug abuse, wanton sex, and “violent, tyrannical” behavior that destroyed her first marriage.

“In my sorrow, I lost my way.”

Four years after her mom died, purely by chance she saw a guidebook for the PCT. And amidst her heartbreak she threw herself relentlessly into her spiritual quest for redemption and renewal.

Strayed said she couldn’t honor her mom by “wrecking” her own life. Full of regret, she needed to start doing the right thing.

She recalled a short scene at the outset of the movie that takes up only a few pages of the book. And yet, it sums up her quest.

She is standing in a hotel room the morning her hike is to begin. All her gear is laid out on the bed. She had never packed a backpack in her life. After she squeezes everything into the enormous bundle she realizes it’s too big.

She can’t budge it.

“What was I thinking?!”

It was upon reflection years later that the moment’s deeper meaning became apparent, she said. “I learned what it means when we have to bear what is unbearable.”

And go on, one step after another.

“You can only figure out how to bear it yourself.”

At one point of the trail her feet were blistered and bloody.

“My feet hurt so bad that I forget about my heart.”

Alone, sometimes scared, often frustrated and exhausted, she persisted. To the end of her journey, at the Bridge of the Gods, which connects Oregon and Washington over the Columbia River.

It almost seems trite, she said, to start life anew at the Bridge of the Gods. No editor would allow her to make that up.

Yet that’s where her trek concluded in 1995, and her new journey began. One that she’s sure would make her mom proud.

Strayed began writing “Wild” in 2008, “when I could really tell what happened.” By then she had already published her novel, “Torch,” was remarried and had two small children.

She’s been overwhelmed by the success of “Wild,” the movie and the hundreds of emails and letters from appreciative readers. Their kind words far outnumber the caustic reviews from those who have criticized her hike along only part of the 2,600-mile PCT.

They’re critical because she didn’t do the whole trail, she didn’t know what she was doing or even what to pack. And the notoriety of “Wild” will attract all manner of people to the trail, spoiling it for hikers.

They miss the point, she said. It’s not a book about backpacking. It’s about conquering heartbreak and starting over.

People ask her, “What would you say to your mother now?” Strayed said she used to tell people she’d say what you’d expect, “I love you, mom” or “I miss you.”

In the movie, her mom is played by Laura Dern. In real life, her mom wasn’t much taller than five feet. Strayed described Dern as beautiful, tall, willowy.

If she met up with her mom now, Strayed said, she would flatter her by saying, “Laura Dern is playing you in a fucking movie!”

One of the key moments from the film is when Dern’s character, stricken with cancer, says, “I never got to be in the driver’s seat of my own life. I was always a daughter, or a wife, or a mother …”
Strayed smiled as she described her own cameo in the movie. It happens near the start. She is driving the pickup that drops Reese Witherspoon, aka Cheryl, off at the hotel in Mojave, Calif., the night before her hike.

Months later, Strayed said, the irony dawned on her: “In the movie of my life, I got to be in the driver’s seat.”


At a glance:



Portland writer Cheryl Strayed, best-selling author of “Wild,” spoke Jan. 15 at OSU in Corvallis.


Her talk was part of the annual Discovery Lecture Series, which brings prominent scientists, writers and policymakers to campus. Next up is Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, on April 13.


In addition to “Wild,” Strayed has written articles for the New York Times, Washington Post and other publications, a novel, “Torch,” and she was the advice columnist behind “Dear Sugar,” a blog on the TheRumpus.net.
The movie “Wild,” now in theaters, stars Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, who have been nominated for Academy Awards as best actress and best supporting actress.

For more information, see CherylStrayed.com.

Strayed generated the loudest laugh of the evening when she described getting a bit of acting advice from Witherspoon leading up to her cameo in the film.

Strayed only needed to say two words, “Good luck,” as Witherspoon climbs out of a pickup to gather up her hiking gear. The scene was one of the last ones filmed for the movie, and Strayed said she started to panic as the moment approached. “It turns out there’s a thousand ways to say, ‘Good luck.’”

So she turns to Witherspoon, who she describes as the most lovely, nurturing, supportive person on the movie crew.

And Reese responds, “Cheryl, just don’t fuck it up!”

-rp-



Monday, May 19, 2014

LBCC "Spring's Light"

Emcee Leslie Hammond talks up the crowd Friday, May 16, 2014, during "Spring's Light," the third annual prose and poetry fundraiser for LBCC's English Department. The event, which supports the LBCC English Endowment Fund, filled the atrium of LBCC's Benton Center in Corvallis. Money from the event supports literature, arts and students

Michael Winder humors the crowd at "Spring's Light" with a story he calls "You Are Invited to the Sparkle Barbecue."

LBCC graduate Jennifer Hartsock shares her young adult fiction. She was among a dozen readers who alternated between providing poetry and prose, humor and serious commentary. 

To see more photos from this year's event, see Rob Priewe's photostream on Flickr.com.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

LBCC instructor Gary Westford shares his '60s stories, poster art

Graphic arts student Pauline Evans admires one of the concert posters on display Tuesday during a talk by LBCC art instructor Gary Westford.

ALBANY -- Borrowing a phrase from the counterculture, Gary Westford quipped, "What a long, strange trip it's been."

That's how Westford wrapped up his "Sixties Presentation" Tuesday afternoon at LBCC, a sort of final lecture for the art instructor who will wrap up his tenure at the college at the end of this term.
Gary Westford
During his hour-long talk, Westford reminisced about attending San Francisco State College during the peak of one of the most exciting eras in U.S. history.

Westford's years at the community college coincided with the anti-war, social justice movements that embroiled his campus almost daily in clashes between students and police. Meanwhile, he had a front-row seat to one of the major musical movements of our times.

As part of his talk, he showed off signature pieces from his psychedelic rock music poster collection by Wes Wilson, David Singer, Stanley Mouse and others. Their work touted "mind-blowing" concerts by the likes of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Chambers Brothers, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. The dozen or so audience members nodded along with Westford in appreciation of the musical talents that came through town, from Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin and The Doors, to Chuck Berry, Count Basie and Albert King, every bit the equal of legendary bluesman B.B. King.

Along with the posters, Westford shared photos and an iconic video performance by Buffalo Springfield: "There's something happening here, but what it is ain't exactly clear ..."

What was clear to Westford is that he was fortunate to have a choice view of history during his years at SF State, from January 1968 to 1971. He arrived on a wrestling scholarship, the son of a U.S. serviceman who was at Pearl Harbor and a career military nurse. While once tempted to follow his father into the service, he has no regrets today that his life took a different path. After college he worked as a probation counselor, along with earning a master's degree in art.

"I wanted to be an agent for change in the system," he said. 

In 1979 he landed in Salem, Oregon, teaching art to prison inmates. He worked two decades in the state's correctional system before joining the art faculty at Linn-Benton. This spring he will be retiring, along with graphic arts colleague John Aikman.

On Tuesday, Westford relished the opportunity to share his passion for art, music and education, and how they collided spectacularly during the late-1960's. He described what it was like to live in Haight-Ashbury, the epicenter of San Francisco's counter-cultural revolution.

"The scene was like from another planet," he said. "I knew it was a very special time." 

He likes to think that what happened there made a difference, sowing seeds of exploration and discovery. Though he acknowledges "the jury is still out."

Westford also recalled the "Human Be-in," a January 1967 gathering of upwards of 30,000 peace activists in nearby Golden Gate Park. While Westford didn't attend the event himself, he has documented it with a short film, courtesy of footage supplied to him about five years ago by Albany resident Bob Ramsdell.

Westford collaborated on the seven-minute film with Ken Long of LBCC's media services department. The film offers a unique viewpoint of one of the era's pivotal happenings.

It concludes with another popular saying from that era: "If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem."

Those who would like to catch an encore presentation of Westford's talk can join him at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 29, in Room 106 of North Santiam Hall at LBCC's Albany campus. 

-rp-

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Spring Light": A Fundraiser for LBCC English

LBCC English instructor Chris Riseley serves as master of ceremonies during "Spring Light," a fundraiser last Friday, April 19, at the Benton Center in Corvallis. Featuring LBCC faculty and friends, the event raised money for English department programs such as the Valley Writers Series.
LBCC English instructor Robin Havenick reads poetry and prose during "Spring Light." Among the passages she read were a bit of "Canterbury Tales" and poems by Frieda Fredrickson.
Kiera Lynn Eller and Crash perform as Little Brother during "Spring Light." They are students at LBCC and involved in the college's Poetry Club. More photos from this event are posted on Flickr and at "LBCC Journalism" on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

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